2 hospitals plan big renovations

Overhaul: Western Baltimore County's Northwest and St. Agnes are gearing up for multimillion-dollar upgrades.

Health Care

September 26, 2004|By Erika Hobbs | Erika Hobbs,SPECIAL TO THE SUN

Two hospitals serving western Baltimore County plan multimillion-dollar renovations to revamp emergency, cardiac, surgical and other services to accommodate the county's growing - and aging - population.

Northwest Hospital Center in Randallstown, one of the county's largest employers, is seeking state approval for a four-year, $45 million project that would expand its intensive care unit, create an intermediate care facility and upgrade its surgical services. The price tag includes electrical and cosmetic upgrades already under way.

St. Agnes HealthCare's $15 million endeavor will expand its bustling emergency room, renovate operating rooms and create a cardiac treatment lab. The yearlong project also is pending state approval.

Both hospitals plan to add equipment that offers the newest treatment technologies for acute illnesses from severe wounds to cancer.

St. Agnes - at the intersection of Wilkens and Caton avenues, just across the line in southwest Baltimore - and Northwest face pressure not only to keep pace in a region saturated by hospitals, but also to meet demands of the changing community profile.

Baltimore County's population of nearly 770,000 people is expected to grow modestly to about 835,000 by 2030, census figures show. At the same time, the number of people 45 and older is expected to jump by more than 60 percent each.

New hospitals have not been built in the area for decades. And some hospitals have decreased their numbers of beds or converted the space for other uses because the demand for them wasn't high enough to justify the cost, said Ida Samet, vice president of Sinai Hospital, a Northwest affiliate. LifeBridge Health owns Sinai and Northwest hospitals.

The aging baby-boom population's demands for additional hospital care will strain many hospitals, she said.

Patients 65 and older are far more likely to require critical care services than younger patients, said Jessica Cooper, business and planning manager for LifeBridge Health. Baltimore County health-care professionals will feel the brunt. Census statistics show that Pikesville has one of the state's highest concentrations of people older than 65, she said.

"We are having to renovate in order to accommodate [the new demand]," Samet said.

Northwest, a 211-bed nonprofit hospital established in 1962, primarily serves Baltimore County. More than 77 percent of Northwest's 12,000 patients admitted last year reported that they lived in the county.

Northwest renovations

In the first phase of Northwest's planned renovations, which are under way, the cooling and heating systems will be upgraded and its backup power generator enhanced - a move most hospitals nationwide have taken to prepare for terrorist attacks.

Next summer, the hospital expects to begin replacing its 26-year-old intensive care unit with a new 16-bed facility. Later, the former ICU will be converted to a 20-bed intermediate care unit, the first of its kind for Northwest.

The hospital also plans to reorganize and renovate its surgical theaters and create larger, more comfortable waiting and recovery areas, said Northwest President Erik Wexler.

He said the new, streamlined ICU design will give nurses access to all their tools - from supplies to records - in one location, so that patients never leave their line of sight.

Construction plans also include expanding the outpatient center by two floors, Wexler said.

Northwest will purchase a hyperbaric oxygen chamber to expand its wound-care facilities. Northwest joins several other hospitals, including Greater Baltimore Medical Center, that use the highly specialized and increasingly accepted wound-care treatment. The chamber typically is used for severe wounds in the elderly or very ill that have not healed within four weeks.

In May, the hospital added chemical infusion therapy to its list of cancer treatments so that patients can seek full treatment without leaving the hospital, Samet said.

St. Agnes campaign

St. Agnes HealthCare, a 299-bed community teaching hospital in Baltimore, will kick off its Year 2012 campaign with a $15 million project that, if approved by the state, will renovate its emergency room and operating rooms, and consolidate cardiovascular services.

The Year 2012 campaign will bring sweeping changes to the hospital, said Vice President William Greskovich. The changes, most of which have yet to be finalized, are intended to increase hospital efficiency, reduce patient waiting time and improve quality of care, he said.

According to Greskovich, St. Agnes' emergency room ranks among the state's three busiest, with more than 80,000 visitors a year.

The 10-year-old department can't handle the growing demand, so the hospital will enlarge its waiting room. It will also increase its number of beds by about 8 percent, to 54. St. Agnes also will create an 11-bed admission area where emergency-room patients who will be admitted to the hospital can undergo testing before they reach their inpatient rooms.

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